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Jamie is an 18-year-old apprentice professional football player – on the final year of his scholarship contract with an English Football League Championship club. 

He has been waiting for three months to find out if the club will offer him a professional contract and the opportunity to fulfil his dream of playing full-time professional football. It is the only ‘job’ he has ever wanted to do. His dreams had begun from when he first remembered playing football with his older brothers when he was 5 years old. By the age of 7 he was on ‘the wanted list’ of a dozen professional clubs in his area. 

He joined the club that had offered his father a scouting job scouting– on the proviso that Jamie agreed to sign for them. They had been the most important influence on his life ever since.

The dream had dominated his thoughts and impacted on his education. He is academically bright, but in school and now at the club, he only ever did just enough to get by, not wanting to look stupid in the classroom, but not motivated sufficiently to work hard and get higher grades.

He had just received the news he had successfully completed his Level 3 BTEC diploma, but with only a pass grade. This meant the possibility of going to University was not available to him for at least a year, neither was a chance to obtain a football scholarship in the USA as his GCSE results were also only average in terms of grades.

He finally received a text from the club after training on a Friday afternoon in April. The text asked him to attend a meeting with the Academy Manager and the Head of Education at 3.00pm that afternoon. 

Jamie had no doubt, this was decision day. He went to the gym to kill the time leading up to the meeting. Right at 3.00pm he knocked on the Academy Managers door. Within seconds, he knew his fate.

He really didn’t need to wait for the answer, the glum faces of the two people he believed were about to make or break his career, said more than a thousand words. 

‘Sorry Jamie, we just don’t think you have what it takes to be a professional footballer’ the sentence was followed by 10 minutes of explanation, but Jamie didn’t comprehend any of those ‘finer details’. It took just 10 minutes to end a dream he had been living for 11 years.

He walked out of the room, shook his head, at a couple of teammates waiting to hear his news, got in his car and drove aimlessly around for an hour. His overriding thought was ‘Why always me?”

Eventually, he pulled into a McDonalds drive through, ordered his usual large Big Mac and fries and reflected on what went wrong!

This article provides details of how talented individuals, sometimes are prevented from maximising the opportunities their talent gives them, primarily because they stop actively learning. 

Look through this Impact AiM summary of the key points to Growth and how a mindset of Always learning is essential for maximising your potential in the workplace.

Read the expert advice here from the Impact AiM team

This is a scenario that happens so often in football, as the truth is many young hopefuls don’t make it into league football. It is also true of life in general, nothing is ever plain sailing. What many people need to embrace is the idea of being adaptable and flexible. To do that we must be willing to learn; as learning keeps our options open and helps us to create our journey with more resources.

So we must commit to learn, and learn to commit. This is the natural cycle of improvement, learning, and development. If we don’t commit to learning then we will ultimately fall short, additionally if we don’t commit to what we learn then we are not being the best version of ourselves and will not get feedback from our action that guides our learning.

The people who have mastered this commitment to learning are those who have what is called a growth mindset. This is the mindset where no matter what happens good or bad there is always something to learn from it. They believe that if they aren’t good at something they will go after it,  approach it and put the effort in. They are not deterred by fears or

insecurities of not being good enough, or not being good at something. They commit to learn and in that learning they are brave to test it out in the world so that they can highlight what they need to improve.

The opposite of this is a fixed mindset; people with this mindset tend to only approach what they feel they are good at, or at least won’t embarrass themselves about. They dramatically avoid things that might show them up as not being skilled, or  even being average. They have such fixed beliefs about aspects of their skills that they feel it’s not worth trying. 

When you look at the world are you looking for growth and development?

Growth is critical for everyone as this is you connecting to your true potential. Growth is what most people really want as it leads to improvement and mastery.

Are you willing to accept the things that you need to improve or have fears or insecurities about?

Readiness is that feeling that you can step up and face the challenge. No matter the fears or insecurities. It works best when we can change into this growth mindset. That allows us to be ready-ready to learn and ready to improve.

Are you willing to change your approach to areas you need to work on and show commitment and dedication to make you more resourceful?

Intention is a skill and it must be positive and have a clearly defined attitude to improving and areas that you are going to develop and who is going to support. It’s a call to action.

Are you willing to commit action out into the world (like getting on with a particular technical skill in your sport that you have avoided so as not to look bad, or get stuck into some academic study even though you find it difficult), so you can get feedback to improve what you need to focus on in your learning?

Committing new behaviours out into the world isn’t easy and takes a good amount of courage and tenacity. We need courage as it often slam dunks confidence. As if you have courage in your actions and behaviours then you can act even when confidence isn’t around.

Are you willing to trust the people around you, including teachers, coaches, mentors, parents, and even yourself?

Trust is the guiding factor. When you trust people in your team you trust them with the ball, this allows you to focus on your role. The same is true for studies, trust your team, teachers, mentors, classmates as they will help you stay focussed and support when you need to learn or improve